Household Cleaning Products

April 3, 2008


by Sharon McDaniel

Levels of pollutants in indoor air, according to the Environmental Protection Agency, can be from 2 to more than 100 times higher than outdoors due, in large part to irritating volatile organic chemicals, or VOCs, that evaporate from home cleaning products.

However, when looking for alternatives there are a multitude of “green” products and one must be alert to the fact that just because a product says it’s natural doesn’t mean it’s nontoxic. It is advisable to look on labels for specific, gentler ingredients that also perform effectively. These include grain alcohol as a solvent, detergents based on coconut or other plant oils, and plant oil disinfectants such as eucalyptus, rosemary or sage. Fabric can be softened by adding 1/4 cup of baking soda to wash cycle. A quarter cup of white vinegar will also soften, with the added bonus of eliminating static cling. To remove stains, try soaking fabrics in water mixed with borax, lemon juice, hydrogen peroxide or white vinegar.

For cleaning windows, fill your own spray bottle with water and either 1/4 cup white vinegar or one tablespoon lemon juice to cut grease. Safer commercial glass cleaners are made by Aubrey Organics, BioShield, Earth Friendly, Naturally Yours and Seventh Generation.

Less toxic products include Ecover and Seventh Generation laundry and dish soaps, Aubrey Organics and Vermont Soapworks all purpose household cleaners and Bioshield and Naturally Yours dishwasher detergent.

For drains, a plunger or snake plumbing tool should first be used to bring up as much of the clog as possible to give a cleaning product room to work, or hopefully eliminate the need for one altogether. Earth Friendly and Naturally Yours drain cleaners use enzymes, rather than caustic chemicals, to dissolve obstructions.

Coat oven surfaces in a paste of water and baking soda and let stand overnight, then scrub off. Among commercial products, try EnviroSafety’s plant-based Multi Purpose Cleaner. For toilets try AFM SafeChoice Safety Clean or Ecover Toilet Cleaner.

Polish furniture with a mixture of one teaspoon olive oil and a cup white vinegar, or look for solvent free products that use mineral or plant oils, such as Earth Friendly or Hope’s Lemon Oil.

For air fresheners opening the windows and ventilating is, of course, the most desirable, but when this is not possible try filling a pretty bowl with baking soda to remove odors. Cedar blocks or sachets of dried flowers/herbs, provide gentle scents, but avoid any potpourri that lists unspecified “fragrance” on the label as this could mean synthetic chemicals, including phthalates. Look for products scented with essential plant oils, such as lemon, verbena or lavender.

Most of these products can be found in supermarkets, natural foods, hardware and home improvement stores. Some products, such as Naturally Yours 888-801-7347, are available only through phone order.

For quick reference, here is a shopping guide:

And some links:


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